Khadija visits Action Against Hunger's Mao Health Centre in Chad. Her granddaughter Fatime is receiving treatment for malnutrition.

Winter Appeal: Saving lives in Chad

For decades, the number of hungry children around the world has been in decline – until now. You can help change that this Christmas.

By Action Against Hunger

Nov 6 2019

The doors of the Mao Health Centre in the Kanem region of Chad, are open every day, treating children who suffer from diseases and severe malnutrition.

Khadija Choukou is 38 years old. She’s caring for her two-year-old granddaughter Fatime while her daughter, Fatime’s mother, waits to give birth to her second child.

As soon as she noticed little Fatime was sick, she made the hour journey to the closest village with a hospital. She was then referred to the Mao Health Centre.

Khadija with her granddaughter Fatime at Action Against Hunger's Mao Health Centre in Chad.

Travel between villages, especially in rural regions can be challenging and expensive. But left with little choice, Khadija took Fatime to the centre the next day.

Everything changed

“I have exhausted my knowledge,” explains Khadija. “Our ancestors gave us traditional treatments. If a baby has a high fever she is covered with a towel soaked in cold water and given traditional medicines such as butter oil with milk… nothing worked. That’s why I took her to the hospital.”

Everything changed when Khadija and Fatime arrived at the health centre. Community health workers quickly diagnosed Fatime and she started her treatment immediately.

“My granddaughter’s health is so much better than before. Since she took the medicine she is much better.”

Thanks to Action Against Hunger's support, Khadija is able to treat her granddaughter Fatime for malnutrition.

The Mao Health Centre is one of many nutrition centres funded by Action Against Hunger across Chad that are making a difference.

When a severely malnourished child comes through its doors, they can be treated and returned to full health within eight weeks.

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Hunger: the biggest threat to global health

Which is why this year our winter appeal is focussing on the rising tide of child hunger. For the third year in a row, hunger levels have risen. Two billion people – a quarter of the world’s population – don’t have safe and secure access to food. This means that hunger is now the biggest threat to global health – bigger than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Every day our staff are on the frontlines of the fight against hunger, working hard to reach children in some of the world’s harshest environments. We can’t reach every child but when we do we can save lives.

Thanks to your support community health workers go out onto the front line in the fight against hunger and find children like Fatime in hard-to-reach areas to increase their chances of survival dramatically.

An escalating humanitarian crisis

The landlocked Republic of Chad gets its name from its lake. Reaching across the centre of the harsh and arid Sahel region, this rapidly shrinking water source crucially supplies water to 30 million people in Chad and its surrounding countries Libya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger.

In 2017, we reported on a terrible humanitarian crisis that was looming in the Lake Chad region. Over half a million children were at risk of dying from hunger and there was an urgent need to scale up humanitarian assistance immediately.

The extreme violence against civilians led to widespread displacement. Refugees and asylum-seekers fled the violence from surrounding countries adding pressure to Chad's weakened economy.

Action Against Hunger's Mao Health Centre in Chad.

The situation is still fragile

After nine years of violence and the added impact of climate change and poverty, 43 NGOs, including Action Against Hunger, sent out a warning that a staggering 11 million people were facing severe hunger in the Lake Chad region.

Since then, the main focus of our response has been on protecting civilians from the violence and other financial and economic hardship.

Significant progress has been made, but the continued insecurity in the region shows that displaced people in the region will be unable to return home any time soon. These displaced people, having left everything behind when they escaped the violence, are in urgent need of assistance - but the crisis has stifled the country’s economy.

Approximately half of Chad’s 14.9 million population are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance due to food insecurity, malnutrition and health emergencies.

In some of the more densely populated areas, particularly among refugees, disease has become widespread and made worse by the country’s weakened development, and almost a million people, including children and pregnant women are vulnerable.

The population is now exposed to epidemic diseases such as cholera, hepatitis E, malaria, meningitis and other respiratory infections and the mortality rate in the affected regions, as many as 133 in every 1,000, is the highest in the world for these entirely preventable diseases.

Action Against Hunger's Winter Appeal

Action Against Hunger is still responding to the crisis gripping the Lake Chad region. Since the crisis began, we have managed to expand our programmes across the region significantly and helped over four million people affected so far.

We're running nutrition centres aimed at children under five and pregnant women, so children like Fatime can get the treatment they urgently need to survive.

Action Against Hunger staff treat patients for malnutrition in Chad.

We have provided emergency food and nutrition supplements to people at risk of life-threatening undernutrition.

We have also been working to meet the basic needs of displaced people and refugees, with a special focus on water, sanitation and hygiene.

And we have been campaigning to reduce maternal and infant mortality and offered technical support to other local organisations in the area.

We won’t stop until our work is done. Only a major humanitarian response, coupled with sustainable investments in livelihoods and health systems, will ensure that families can survive and thrive into the future.

This winter we are asking for your support to help us reach more children like little Fatime in hard-to-reach areas, because every child deserves a chance.

Support our Action Against Hunger Winter Appeal so we can be saving more lives of malnourished children in over 40 countries.
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You can help help save lives this Christmas by supporting our Winter Appeal.

Photos: Christophe Da Silva/Action Against Hunger